Tuesday 29 December 2020

Another Golden Day, Bar(red) None

Yesterday I said that the Golden Eagles down in Newbury would probably be my last new Middlesex year bird...I lied.

This morning I set out to the north part of the county, with Ruffed Grouse on my mind. Ruffed Grouse is a regular breeder in Middlesex, but I have actually never laid eyes on one in the county! Ruffed Grouse occur in a very low density throughout the Ausable River Valley, so that seemed like my best bet.

I first drove the block around part of Camp Sylvan, in hopes maybe one was feeding on the roadside. No dice. Funny enough though, I did cross paths with two Golden Eagles! It always seems to go that way, once you see one, you see a bunch...

I had plans to check out Joany's Woods, but they had the entrance I wanted barricaded off, and there was a truck parked there, so I opted to not interfere. Instead, I went up to the Parkhill Conservation Area, another place with known grouse activity. In fact, I am almost positive I had one here back in June, but I never got a visual on whatever it was that flushed from the side of the road. 

I first checked the reservoir for geese. There were several hundred Canadas, and with the eleven Cackling Geese. I cannot recall ever seeing Cackling Geese in the winter before, but it has been an exceptional fall for them.


I checked the north perimeter of the conservation area with no luck, then went to the main entrance, and walked the road where I flushed the mystery bird earlier in the year. Despite crisscrossing for 2.5 kilometers for close to an hour and a half, I couldn't turn up anything notable, other than a lingering Hermit Thrush. Oh well, in the spring...

I next decided to go to Fanshawe Conservation Area and do my usual walk from the north end to the dam. It was quite enjoyable, as there were tons of ducks and geese to look at along the way. I ended up with over 1000 Canada Geese, 8 Cackling Geese, almost 1300 Mallards, 60 American Black Ducks, 15 Common Goldeneye, 2 American Wigeon, and 5 Northern Pintail. I was hoping to find a white-fronted goose, but no luck. Interestingly, 200 Common Mergansers had been reported yesterday, and I didn't see a single one today!

I made a pitstop on the way home at the Uplands North Wetland to pick up Swamp Sparrow for my day list (hey, why not?), which is when I got texts from Pete Read and Reuven Martin saying that the Barred Owl, which had been seen briefly twice since its original sighting on the 18th, had been relocated at Westminister Ponds! Needless to say, I was off.

I arrived a short while later, and in the company of several other (COVID aware) observers, saw the owl. A new Middlesex bird for almost all of us there.

#224! Good end to a good day, despite missing grouse.

It seems unlikely at this point that I will see something else in the next two days, especially looking at the weather forecast, but never say never...

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